Recorded Talk: The Evolution of George Square with Niall Murphy




George Square – the heart of Glasgow and central to its identity but currently a place of intense social debate – it was ever thus…

So, how did the square come into being, how has it evolved over three centuries, is there a pattern behind the locations of the monuments and why were their subjects selected for immortalisation in bronze? In this illustrated talk, Niall Murphy of Glasgow City Heritage Trust explains the background to the Square.

Niall discusses the many permutations of the square in its journey across three centuries – from farmland in Jacobean times, to a muddy waste in the heart of James Barry’s New Town, to a late Georgian private romantic garden, the influence of Paris and the City Improvement Trust on the mid-Victorian layout of the newly public square, to the civic square embodying the values of the Second City of the Empire, to the space which commemorates the sacrifices of Glaswegians in the First and Second World Wars.

While charting the changes to the Square over time the talk asks if the positions of the monuments are haphazard or if there is an intelligence behind it all?

The talk also looks at why the Cenotaph is located where it is and why the Parks Committee was so opposed to the site. Find out more about Sir JJ Burnet’s subtle design for the Cenotaph, what influenced him and how it compares to the other war memorials he produced. Was there an alternative design for the Cenotaph and if so, why was it rejected by the Corporation? Finally, the talk touches on the sometimes controversial backgrounds to some of the monuments.

Niall Murphy is the Deputy Director at Glasgow City Heritage Trust. Niall has nearly 20 years experience as an architect and is heavily involved in heritage, conservation and community issues in Glasgow being current Chair of Govanhill Baths Community Trust – the largest meanwhile use in Scotland – and Vice Chair for the Pollokshields Trust – a community anchor organisation set up following the ‘Make Your Mark’ East Pollokshields and Port Eglinton Charrette in 2016 which Niall helped secure funding for. Previously, Niall has been chair of Pollokshields Heritage, Planning Convener for Pollokshields Community Council and a member of the Glasgow Urban Design Panel. Between 2016 – 2018 he was invited by the Minister for Local Government and Housing to be a member of the Development Management Working Group for the Scottish Government’s Planning Review. Niall has won the Glasgow Doors Open Day Excellence Award for Inspiring City Tour (2017), the Glasgow Doors Open Day Above and Beyond Award (2014), the Sir Robert Lorimer Award for Sketching (1996) and, in addition to nominations for Saltire Awards and GIA Awards was nominated for the Scottish Civic Trust’s My Place Award for Civic Champion in 2015. Niall regularly lectures on architecture, heritage and urban design issues.

This event was recorded in front of a virtual audience via Zoom on 29th July 2020.

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